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Bleeding Gums: Reasons for Your Bleeding Gums & When to See a Dentist

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Last updated February 12, 2021

Bleeding gums quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your bleeding gums.

Understand your bleeding gums symptoms, including 9 causes & common questions.

6 most common cause(s)

Macrophage Activation Syndrome
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Normal bleeding after dental surgery
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Hemophilia a
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Blood issue that needs further testing

Bleeding gums quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your bleeding gums.

Take bleeding gums quiz

Bleeding gums symptoms

You brush twice a day. You floss more than most. You use all the latest whitening products. But your pearly whites aren't the star of the show. Instead all they can see are your puffy, oozing, bleeding gums. Not exactly the first impression you want to make.

If you want to have pink and happy gums instead of red and angry gums, there is a solution within reach.

Common characteristics of bleeding gums

If you're experiencing bleeding gums, it can likely be described by:

  • Red, swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed when brushing or eating
  • Gums that pull away from teeth
  • New spaces between teeth or shifting teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Bad breath

Healthy gums should be firm and resistant to movement, pink near the teeth, stippled, and scalloped around the teeth. If none of this is ringing a bell, it's time to evaluate your dental hygiene routine.

In most cases, the cause behind bleeding gums can be treated. But it's always best to begin treatment as soon as possible to avoid prolonged complications or side effects. The first step in treating swollen and unhealthy gums is to determine the cause.

Causes of bleeding gums

Bleeding gums are never normal. That's why it's important to find the cause, even if you only see a small amount of blood.

Dental habits to prevent bleeding gums:

Make sure you are completing the following oral routine in order to maintain healthy gums.

  • Flossing: Flossing removes food and build-up that brushing and rinsing can't. By skipping this step, you're leaving your gums vulnerable to bacteria.
  • Toothbrush: Avoid medium or hard bristled toothbrushes. These can irritate the gums. Brushing harder isn't better. A soft bristled brush is strong enough to remove food and plaque.
  • Brushing: Have you been known to skip a brushing session now and again? Brushing half an hour after eating breakfast and before going to sleep is ideal.

Medications that cause gums to bleed

It's not difficult to get a small cut in your gums, whether from brushing too hard or from trauma. Taking blood thinners can make a small cut seem much worse.

Conditions and diseases that cause bleeding gums

The following conditions pose a greater risk for bleeding gums.

  • Pregnancy: When a woman is pregnant, she's more susceptible to developing gum problems. This can make it more difficult to keep gums healthy, but the good news is that the issues typically disappear after giving birth.
  • Gum disease: There are several stages of gum disease. Bleeding gums are the first sign of a problem. Inflammation of the gums is known as gingivitis. The more severe form of gum disease is known as periodontitis. See a dentist before serious complications arise.
  • General increased risk of bleeding: Such as blood thinning medications or more rarely illnesses such as leukemia.

Gum bleeding due to lifestyle choices

The following should be considered if you are suffering from bleeding gums.

  • Poor diet: Eating food high in sugar while not practicing proper dental hygiene habits creates the perfect environment for bacteria growth and swollen gums.
  • Smoking: The toxic chemicals in smoking irritate gums and leave you more likely to develop gum disease and for it to progress faster with more serious side effects, like lost teeth and receding gums.

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (anug)

Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) is a relatively rare infection of the gums. It's also known as "trench mouth", as it was discovered in a large number of soldiers in WWI that were stuck in trenches. The pain caused by ANUG is what makes it different from chronic periodontitis, and it requires treatment by professionals.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: bleeding gums, gum pain, chronically bad breath, severe mouth pain, gum swelling

Urgency: In-person visit

Bleeding after dental surgery requiring care

Bleeding after a dental surgery or procedure is very common, and it's likely caused by a clot that got dislodged, allowing bleeding to restart. If you have trouble forming blood clots, this might require help from a dentist or a doctor.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: bleeding gums

Symptoms that always occur with bleeding after dental surgery requiring care: bleeding gums

Urgency: In-person visit

Normal bleeding after dental surgery

Bleeding after a dental surgery or procedure is very common, and it's likely caused by a clot that got dislodged, allowing bleeding to restart.

You should dampen (wet) clean gauze or wash cloth, place it in the area of the surgery, and either bite down or apply pressure with a finger. This should stop bleeding within 5 minutes.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: bleeding gums

Symptoms that always occur with normal bleeding after dental surgery: bleeding gums

Urgency: Self-treatment

Macrophage activation syndrome

Macrophage activation syndrome is a rare, but life-threatening disease caused by rheumatic diseases like Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and Still disease.

Given the life-threatening nature of the disease, you should go to the ER immediately for blood tests and stabilization.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, fever, new headache, diarrhea, irritability

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Hemophilia a

Hemophilia A is an inherited (genetic) disorder which causes the blood to have a deficiency or absence of coagulation factor VIII, which is a protein that is needed to create blood clots. This can result in bleeding that starts on its own, or uncontrollable bleeding after trauma or surgery.

You should visit your primary care physician who will refer you to a hemophilia treatment center. Treatment is with medication and avoidance of trauma that can cause uncontrollable bleeding.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: spontaneous shoulder pain, difficulty moving the shoulder, rectal bleeding, unexplained/excessive bleeding from cuts or wounds, pink/blood-tinged urine

Symptoms that always occur with hemophilia a: unexplained/excessive bleeding from cuts or wounds

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Head and neck cancer

There are five main types of head and neck cancer, which are all named according to the part of the body where they develop: laryngeal (voice box), nasal cavity and sinus, nasopharyngeal (air passage way behind the nose), oral (mouth), and salivary gland cancers. Most of these cancers are squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs), meaning they begin in the flat (squamous) cells that make up the thin surface layer of the structures in the head and neck.

You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate your care with a cancer specialist (oncologist) for further testing. It is impossible to definitively diagnosis head and neck cancers without lab testing and biopsy. Treatment is likely to include surgery and chemotherapy.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss, hoarse voice, neck bump, ear canal pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor


Gingivitis is the infection of the gums surrounding the teeth. It is caused by plaque and/or tartar that has built up on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky layer of gunk made by food particles, mucus, and bacteria. After a while, plaque hardens to become tartar (or calculus). Plaque and tartar at the bottom of the teeth causes the gums to become irritated and infected.

You should go to the nearest dentist in the next few weeks. There, the dentist or dental hygenist will clean your teeth, getting rid of that nasty plaque/tartar. Once cleaned, you should rinse your mouth twice-a-day with chlorhexidine 0.12% oral rinse (PerioGard) or half-strength hydrogen peroxide. Flossing and brushing your teeth are also essential.

Blood issue that needs further testing

Your blood cells form in your bone marrow. Sometimes, the bone marrow produces abnormal cells. These cells can crowd out the healthy blood cells, making it hard for blood to do its work.

You should see your primary care doctor in the next few days. There, a blood test can look at the number of cells of each type.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, muscle aches, fever

Urgency: In-person visit

Aplastic anemia

Aplastic anemia occurs when the body stops creating enough blood cells

You should seek immediate medical care at your primary care physician or an urgent care, where diagnostic tests (blood tests) can be done and if needed a referral to a hospital can be made.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: being severely ill, racing heart beat, fever, severe fatigue, new headache

Symptoms that always occur with aplastic anemia: being severely ill

Urgency: In-person visit

Bleeding gums treatments and relief

Bleeding gums should never be ignored. Very rarely will a trip to the emergency room be required but if your gums are bleeding due to injury or you can't get the bleeding to stop, head to the hospital.

You should be scheduling an appointment with your dentist every six months.

When to see a doctor for bleeding gums

If you're experiencing bleeding gums, schedule an appointment sooner than later if:

  • Your gums bleed daily
  • You're experiencing pain that makes it difficult to eat
  • You notice large spaces or loose teeth

At-home treatments for bleeding gums

There are several approaches you can take to heal bleeding gums at home.

  • Proper hygiene: Brush twice each day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Floss daily and schedule check-ups with your dentist every six months or as recommended.
  • Essential oils: Certain essential oils boost gum health. Try mixing peppermint oil with a bit of baking soda and coconut oil for a homemade toothpaste.
  • Honey: Using unadulterated honey, place a small amount directly on irritated gum tissue. Its antibacterial and antiseptic properties will help the area heal.

With a detailed plan and commitment, bleeding gums can usually be reversed without any severe damage. You'll be getting compliments on your smile before you know it.

FAQs about bleeding gums

Will bleeding gums stain teeth?

Generally, bleeding gums may be a sign of chronic bacteria in the mouth and an early sign of gum disease. Blood and bleeding can stain teeth, especially around loose fillings or prior cavities. If you have bleeding gums when you floss, you should continue flossing and seek an appointment with a dentist for advice for the prevention of gum disease.

Can bleeding gums cause a throat infection?

No. Bleeding gums cannot cause a throat infection. A boil, cavity, or infection of the gum, however, can cause a throat infection as it produces bacteria that may cause a throat infection if it is not treated promptly. The best treatment for cavities, boils, or infections depends on the extent of the infection and the tissue affected.

Why do I have bleeding gums and bad breath?

Bleeding gums and bad breath are signs of bacterial colonization of the mouth and oropharynx (the back of the throat). Inadequate flossing can cause food particles to become stuck between the teeth. As these significant amounts of food rot, it may cause halitosis or very bad breath. Bleeding gums unrelated to bad breath, and if associated with spontaneous or easy bleeding elsewhere, should be investigated by your physician to exclude a clotting or blood disorder.

Are bleeding gums normal during teething?

A small amount of bleeding is normal, but larger amounts of bleeding may be a sign of a bacterial infection in a small child and may need treatment. Small children are extremely sensitive to infection and may exhibit behavior changes like tiredness or lethargy, colickyness or persistent crying, fast breathing or a fever if they have an infection.

Can pregnancy cause my gums to bleed?

Yes, there is a reported increase in the severity of gingival inflammation of gum swelling during pregnancy. The cause of this is unknown, but it is theorized that hormones present during pregnancy, like progesterone, cause progression of gingivitis by increasing sensitivity of the gums.

Questions your doctor may ask about bleeding gums

  • Do you currently smoke?
  • Is there anything affecting your ability to stop bleeding?
  • Are you experiencing a headache?
  • Did you recently undergo a dental procedure?
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The stories shared below are not written by Buoy employees. Buoy does not endorse any of the information in these stories. Whenever you have questions or concerns about a medical condition, you should always contact your doctor or a healthcare provider.
Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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  1. Fotek I. Bleeding Gums. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated February 5, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
  2. Napenas J. Blood Thinners and Dental Care. The American Academy of Oral Medicine. Updated May 5, 2015. AAOM Link
  3. How to Treat Gum Disease Naturally During Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association. Updated September 2, 2016. APA Link
  4. Gingivitis and Periodontitus: Overview. Informed Health Online. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006. NCBI Link
  5. Smoking, Gum Disease, and Tooth Loss. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated April 23, 2018. CDC Link
  6. Preventing Periodontal Disease. American Academy of Periodontology. AAP Link